I want to interject before we even get started. I thought about this headline for so long. I initially wanted to call it a “missed dunk call,” but there wasn’t a call, and the dunk was actually made, so it doesn’t make any sense. It also can’t be a made dunk no-call because, well, that doesn’t make sense. While “made dunk that didn’t count” seems the most appropriate for the headline, it’s missing the gravity of accountability.
You see, last night, one of the most bizarre plays in Houston Rockets (and possibly all of basketball) history happened. After James Harden picked off a pass at the start of the San Antonio Spurs possession, he jogs back to the other side and slams it down — only for this to happen:
The refs really didn't count this Harden dunk pic.twitter.com/tkpFWpqu9f— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 4, 2019
Now, this isn’t the first time that this has happened in a game. Something similar happened to Tyson Chandler a few years ago.
Then there’s this play where LeBron James booms it (literally) on Gerald Henderson’s head, which forces it to pop up out of the basket.
So, yes, it happens. But here’s where we go back to the gravity of no-call.
The first two baskets are, and excuse the cliche’, bang-bang plays. Chandler’s oop is so tight to the rim and his head is literally underneath the goal, so that’s an easy call to miss. The LeBron dunk happens so damn fast and, much like the Chandler play, Henderson’s head is right underneath the rim. The most important parts of both these plays: heads are directly under the basket, and the net never “moves.”
The no-call, missed call, whatever you want to call it, on the Harden play should never happen. For one, he’s literally walking alone, no defenders in sight, to the basket. It’s not a *ahem* bang-bang play. Two, the ball WRAPS THE NET AROUND THE RIM. Missed shots do not do that. The net wrapping the rim means that the ball was delivered through the rim at such an angle and with enough force that it was able to move the bottom of the net up and around the rim.
How is that not called a made basket? There is an official running directly behind Harden on the play. Even worse, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni immediately called a timeout after that play, asked to review, and of course they say that they can’t. Much like in the NFL when a play is called dead as a player tries to run and gain more yards, you can’t challenge if he was down or not and should consequently gain those yards — it was already called dead. The shot was called a miss, and there was no sort of call on the floor that would affect it and make it reviewable, so therefore it remained in limbo. And, that, of course, is a stupid ruling.
And now here’s the official explanation from officials crew chief James Capers, in which things get even more dubious, because it doesn’t match up with what we saw on TV. The Rockets complained immediately.
From pool report transcript w/ crew chief James Capers re: #Rockets Harden dunk rules no basket: "...it did clear the net & should have been a successful FG." Capers says he can't remember if he told Rockets it was too late to ask for review during timeout. That seems important. pic.twitter.com/46MBkyosGu— Adam Wexler (@KPRC2AdamW) December 4, 2019
Instead, the Rockets, of course, blow the lead and end up going into double-OT with the Spurs when those two points could have made the entire game for Houston. Let’s be clear on a few things too: yes, this was only two points in what ended up being a 16-point fourth-quarter collapse. The Rockets played horrible defense and made no shots to close out the game. That much is true. What is also true is that Harden made a two-point shot in a game that ended in a tie in regulation. Houston was owed those points.
Both of those things can be very true.
It’ll be interesting to see how the league will respond, if there is any response. The NBA has a history of replaying games due to blown calls. Is it possible this is one of them? The Rockets will likely be filing a protest.